Are you afraid of the future?


Change happens at tremendous pace these days, and humans are generally speaking not very keen on it. This is because we are creatures of habit, we like routines and familiarity, and it is hard to change what we are used to. The future can be a worrying prospect, as we simply don’t know what’s around the corner and it is very difficult to predict how events will pan out.

Sortie de l'Opera en l'an 2000: a painting from 1902 in which Albert Robida imagines people leaving the Opera in the year 2000

Sortie de l’Opera en l’an 2000: a painting from 1902 in which Albert Robida imagines people leaving the Opera in the year 2000. Note flying buses and limousines, and police patrolling the skies.

I recently read a book called The Future: 50 Ideas You Really Need to Know, which contained a list of how people dismissed new ideas at the time they first came out. It makes for interesting reading:

  • 1400s: “Printed books will never be the equivalent of handwritten codices.” (Trithemius, De Laude Scriptorum)
  • 1800s: “Rail travel at high speed is not possible because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.” (Dr Dionysys Lardner)
  • 1839: “The abolishment of pain in surgery is a chimera. It is absurd to go on seeking it.” (Dr Alfred Velpeau, surgeon)
  • 1888: “We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy.” (Simon Newcomb, astronomer)
  • 1904: “Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value.” (Marechal Ferdinand Foch)
  • 1909: “The automobile has practically reached the limit of its development.” (Scientific American)
  • 1923: “There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom.” (Robert Millikan, winner of Nobel Prize for Physics)
  • 1968: “But what… is it good for?” (Engineer at IBM commenting on the microchip)
  • 1979: “People won’t want to play these electronic games for more than a week, not once we start selling pinball machines for the home.” (Gus Bally, Arcade Inc.)
  • 1994: “I will believe in the 500-channel world only when I see it.” (Sumner Redstone, Chairman, Viacom and CBS).

Many more are available here amongst other sites.

So we aren’t very good at anticipating the future, and imagining how things will change. The Bible, however, contains God’s predictions for the future, and they are in fact amazingly accurate across huge periods of time. For example,

  • Joseph, with God’s help, interpreted Pharaoh’s dream to predict the weather for 14 years – seven good harvests followed by seven awful ones – in Genesis 41.
  • Daniel, again with God’s help, predicted a series of world empires to King Nebuchadnezzar: the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans, centuries before they appeared on the scene, and even included details about the empires (for example Alexander the Great’s lightning conquest is represented by a goat moving so quickly it doesn’t touch the ground) in Daniel chapters 2 and 7.
  • Many prophets, including Ezekiel, related God’s predictions about Jews returning to their homeland in Israel after centuries of dispersion across the world, to become a nation again in 1948, more than two millennia after the prophecy in Ezekiel 37!

These correct predictions, which are often called prophecies in the Bible (and many of the Bible’s 66 books are written by prophets who relate God’s predictions), are worth looking into. I’ll do a summary of some others at some point. But we can’t miss the greatest prophecy of all – that there will be a kingdom on earth, marked by an abundance of food and peace, ruled over by Christ and the immortal believers, where all nations will submit to God (for example, Isaiah 35, Micah 4v1-5, Psalm 72, Daniel 2v44).

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